The CSS Blog Network

Vietnam: New Thinking, New Risks, New Opportunities

Vietnam, Image: flydime/flickr

The Vietnam “story” has changed over time. First, it was a war story; then Vietnam became “a country” in the run-up to the normalization of US-Vietnam relations in 1995. Now the country is moving forward with a new narrative, a strategy of active and proactive international integration.

The country’s top foreign policy makers have decided it is time for Vietnam to fully launch itself into the international arena. In a conversation with the Council on Foreign Relations last year, Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said, “This was a turning point in our foreign policy, because before we focused on economic integration, but now we also integrate in all areas such as not only economic but politics, diplomacy, security, defense, culture and social effects.” » More

Economic and Political Indicators: Do we Still Need Them?

indicator

Synchronism indicator. Picture: Leo Reynolds/flickr

In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, the presentation of Matthias Busse on Thursday, 1st March entitled ‘Governance in Developing Countries’ at the CIS Colloquium series led to a heated debate on the necessity and validity of indicators, such as those for example developed by the World Bank. Unlike in usual antipositivist development circles, however, the audience engaged in a constructive debate with Busse about his research design concerning the following hypothesis: ‘External drivers of change are less effective than internal ones to improve business regulations’; but how can we discern internal drivers of change from external ones, and how can we measure the well-being of the business regulation framework?

At the beginning, Busse clarified that the project he presented is still in its early stages; yet, he invited disagreement by not being able to explain how internal drivers of change could, even theoretically, be differentiated from external ones. External drivers, such as the IMF or the World Bank, provide conditional loans, which in turn directly affect the so-called internal drivers of change: FDI, press freedom, or trade. Hence, it might be difficult to independently measure and then compare the effect of these two factors on the regulatory framework. » More

The Elephant in the Brotherhood’s Living Room

The Elephant in the Room, Image: David Blackwell/flickr

Ongoing protests in Cairo have cast a shadow on the inauguration of Egypt’s first democratically elected Parliament, making it clear that the country is still merely at the threshold of achieving a successful transition to democracy. Hovering above the heads of many protesters remains the fear of military rulers not willing to step down from the political arena, and given the military’s core interests, this apprehension would not appear misplaced. Meanwhile, the question of how the Muslim Brotherhood will actually grapple with the burden of government responsibility once in power is predominantly worrisome to liberal Western governments and to Israel in particular.

Considering the Brotherhood’s long history of being in opposition and primarily functioning outside the political realm, this is a highly relevant question. Starting in the 1920’s as a social movement, the organization has built up its strong popular base mainly by avoiding direct government confrontation and providing efficient social services to Egyptian citizens at the margins of a repressive government. Having originally operated in the shadows of Hosni Mubarak’s corrupt regime, the Brotherhood’s grass roots approach has now borne fruit in the form of votes at the ballot, and the people are skeptically waiting to be served. The ever-evolving nature of the Brotherhood seems to be standing at the crossroads once again, having to compromise between pragmatism and ideology, a choice that is likely to determine Egypt’s future at least in the short term. » More

Syed Mansoob Murshed: The Economic Modeling of … Huntington?

Say No to Burqas

Man repairing the “Say No to Burqas” graffiti. Picture: Newtown graffiti/flickr

Interdisciplinary research can provide a stimulus for different research agendas, but only on the condition that it remains intelligible for all of the disciplines involved. Unfortunately, the presentation of Syed Mansoob Murshed on the economic modeling of identity in civilizational and sectarian conflicts did not provide the opportunity for such an interaction between disciplines. This is all the more regrettable, as Murshed’s distinguished background in economics is a valuable asset in enriching both conflict and violence research. Despite the mixed quality of the presentation, it is worth taking a moment to understand and to engage with the ideas introduced.

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Prosecutors Wanted!

Image: spaceninja/flickr

A ship built in Japan, owned by a brass-plate company in Malta, controlled by an Italian, chartered by the French, skippered by a Norwegian, crewed by Indians, registered in Panama, etc. etc. is attacked while transiting an international waterway in Indonesian territory. So – if the pirates ever get arrested – who exactly is in charge of prosecuting them?

Some legal scholars recommend that captured pirates should be prosecuted in the region where they are arrested. Unfortunately, countries that lack the capacity to secure their waters often also have limited resources for prosecution. If more than one country is interested in prosecuting the arrested pirates, it is not immediately clear which country’s judiciary system should be applied. The international legal framework remains vague and sometimes even contradictory. And it starts with the definition, around which there is no consensus: The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) defines piracy as 1) an act of violence 2) conducted on the high seas 3) against another vessel 4) and for private gain; while the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA) defines it as 1) intentionally seizing or damaging a ship or 2) attempting to seize or damage a ship. » More

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